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Eruption at Fogo

Eruption at Fogo

On November 23, 2014, the Fogo volcano in the Cabo Verde (Cape Verde) islands began erupting for the first time in nineteen years. Spewing thick lava and a plume of gases, the volcano has not yet claimed any lives, though it has altered many.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Aqua satellite captured this image of Fogo at 1:50 p.m. (1450 Universal Time) on November 29, 2014. A faint blue-gray plume trails off to the southwest alongside a line of clouds that also may have been seeded by the eruption. Further out in the Atlantic Ocean, the scene appears to be clouded by faint blue volcanic smog, or vog. Download the large image to see the broad extent of vog over the Atlantic.

Fogo—the Portuguese word for “fire”—is a 25-kilometer (15-mile) wide island in the Cabo Verde archipelago and sits about 600 kilometers (400 miles) off the coast of Africa. Fogo is a stratovolcano, and much of the island is covered by the Cha Caldera, which is roughly 9 kilometers wide and has a headwall rising nearly a kilometer. A roughly one-kilometer tall cone—Pico—rises in the eastern half of the crater. Several thousand people live in small villages and towns within the western half of the crater.

According to news and scientific reports, the new eruption is the largest since 1951. Lava has been erupting from a vent near the base of Pico on its west-southwest side. Molten rock has been advancing at 15 to 20 meters per hour and stretches roughly 4 kilometers across the landscape. Satellite sensors have also detected abundant sulfur dioxide emissions in the region.

Volcanologist Erik Klemetti described Fogo’s eruption history on his blog: “Most of the activity at Fogo for the past 500 years has occurred within the main caldera of the volcano, and the eruption in 1995 was centered on the flanks of Pico. The eruptions are dominantly lava flows, although unlike shield volcanoes like Kilauea, Fogo erupts both low-silica basanite and high-silica phonolite.”

According to news reports, no deaths have been caused by the eruption because local residents and visitors were evacuated. The main road to the villages of Bangaeira and Portela has been overrun by lava, and most of the buildings at the nearby national park have been destroyed. A sizable portion of the land consumed by the eruption was covered with vineyards, so officials are concerned about the loss of a key crop.

NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response. Caption by Mike Carlowicz.

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